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Attachment of GPS Device Equals Search

Posted: January 23, 2012 Filed under: Case Law

Today, in the case of United States v. Jones, — U.S. —, No. 10-1259 (Jan. 23, 2012), the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided that the attachment of a GPS device to a vehicle, and the use of the GPS device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Thus, a search warrant was required, and the Court affirmed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which had ruled admission of the evidence obtained by warrantless use of the GPS device violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court refused to consider an alternative argument—”that if the attachment and use of the device was a search, it was a reasonable one—” because it was not raised in the lower courts.

The facts in Jones revealed that the government obtained a search warrant permitting it to install a GPS device, but the warrant authorized installation only in the District of Columbia and within 10 days. Government agents instead installed the device on the 11th day and in Maryland.

Admitted: Florida, Kansas, New Mexico (inactive)